Monday, June 29, 2009

Open your eyes

Giuseppe Verdi - "Vendetta", from Rigoletto
with Tito Gobbi & Lina Pagliughi

Be careful-
waving your poem
sword can decimate
silkword scarves
and expose jugulars
that will drown us
in their burnt red

Friday, June 26, 2009

We are alone, by Dorothy Livesay

W. A. Mozart - Sull'aria, Le Nozze di Figaro
with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa & Ileana Cotrubas

We are alone, who strove to be
Together in the high sun's weather.

We are bereft, as broods a tree
Whose leaves the river sucks forever.

We are as clouds, which merge and vanish
Leaving breathless the dead horizon-

We are as comrades, whose handshake only
Comes rare as leap-year and mistletoe morning.

Each one ploughing a one-man clearing
Neither one alive to see

In wider boundaries of daring
What the recompense might be.

from Re:Generations: Canadian Women Poets in Conversation (Black Moss Press, 2005)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Fall, by Thomas Merton

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Laudate Dominum
from "Vesperae solenne de confessore" KV 339
with Kiri te Kanawa

There is no where in you a paradise that is no place and there
You do not enter except without a story.

To enter there is to become unnameable.

Whoever is nowhere is nobody, and therefore cannot exist except as unborn:
No disguise will avail him anything

Such a one is neither lost nor found.

But he who has an address is lost.

They fall, they fall into apartments and are securely established!

They find themselves in streets. They are licensed
To proceed from place to place
They now know their own names
They can name several friends and know
Their own telephones must some time ring.

If all telephones ring at once, if all names are shouted at once and all cars crash at one crossing:
If all cities explode and fly away in dust
Yet identities refuse to be lost. There is a name and a number for everyone.

There is a definite place for bodies, there are pigeon holes for ashes:
Such security can business buy!

Who would dare to go nameless in so secure a universe?
Yet, to tell the truth, only the nameless are at home in it.

They bear with them in the center of nowhere the unborn flower of nothing:
This is the paradise tree. It must remain unseen until words end and arguments are silent.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Longing, by Sue Sinclair

Ludwig van Beethoven - Cello Sonata No.3 in A major, Op.69 - III
with Pablo Casals, cello and Mieczyslaw Horszowski, piano

Tired of being alone, especially at night.
The stars broken down in the sky, engines stalled,
shining, waiting for rescue.
The height of things stares down at you.

You settle into the night's own loneliness,
let the universe expand, stretch like a curing hide.
Someday the absence on the other side
will show through, unquantified:
if history is an animal, this is its pain,
an unspoken reproach, the throbbing in the vein
that accompanies the inevitable going forth,
you or someone like you taking the place
of the unborn, feeling their stare.

Is the great beauty of things somehow visible to itself?
If so, is it enough? For how quickly it vanishes,
becomes its own ghost. And then there is you:
you have only the barest idea of what you'll leave behind.
History must feel its failures vividly.
You wonder if it heard the chorus fade away
when you were born, for you grew up
knowing nothing of the echoes that surrounded you,
still less of the voices that will be lost when you leave.

in Breaker, Brick Books, 2008

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Big Boots Of Pain, by Anne Sexton

Henry Purcell - Dido's Lament
from Dido and Æneas, with Dame Janet Baker
Glyndebourne, 1966. Conductor: Charles Mackerras

There can be certain potions
needled in by the clock
for the body's fall from grace,
to untorture and to plead for.
These I have known
and would sell all my furniture
and books and assorted goods
to avoid, and more, more.

But the other pain...
I would sell my life to avoid
the pain that begins in the crib
with its bars or perhaps
with your first breath
when the planets drill
your future into you
for better or worse
as you marry life
and the love that gets doled out
or doesn't.

I find now, swallowing one teaspoon
of pain, that it drops downward
to the past where it mixes
with last year's cupful
and downward into a decade's quart
and downward into a lifetime's ocean.
I alternate treading water
and deadman's float.

The teaspoon ought to be bearable
if it didn't mix into the reruns
and thus enlarge into what it is not,
a sea pest's sting turning promptly
into the shark's neat biting off
of a leg because the soul
wears a magnifying glass.
Kicking the heart
with pain's big boots running up and down
the intestines like a motorcycle racer.

Yet one does get out of bed
and start over, plunge into the day
and put on a hopeful look
and does not allow fear to build a wall
between you and an old friend
or a new friend and reach out your hand,
shutting down the thought that
an axe may cut it off unexpectedly.
One learns not to blab about all this
except to yourself or the typewriter keys
who tell no one until they get brave
and crawl off onto the printed page.

I'm getting bored with it,
I tell the typewriter,
this constantly walking around
in wet shoes and then, surprise!
Somehow DECEASED keeps getting
stamped in red over the word HOPE.
And I who keep falling thankfully
into each new pillow of belief,
finding my Mercy Street,
kissing it and tenderly gift-wrapping my love,
am beginning to wonder just what
the planets had in mind on November 9th, 1928.
The pillows are ripped away,
the hand guillotined,
dog shit thrown into the middle of a laugh,
a hornets' nest building into the hi-fi speaker
and leaving me in silence,
where, without music,
I become a cracked orphan.

one gets out of bed
and the planets don't always hiss
or muck up the day, each day.
As for the pain and its multiplying teaspoon,
perhaps it is a medicine
that will cure the soul
of its greed for love
next Thursday.

in The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton, Mariner Books (1999)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Agape, by Timothy Murphy

Hector Berlioz - Lacrymosa, Grande Messe des Morts (Requiem)

The night you died, I dreamed you came to camp
to hear confession from an Eagle Scout
tortured by forty years of sin and doubt.
You whispered vespers by a hissing lamp.

Handlers, allowing you to hike with me,
followed us to the Bad Axe waterfront
down a firebreak this camper used to hunt.
Through all I said you suffered silently.

I blamed the authors of my unbelief:
St. Paul, who would have deemed my love obscene,
the Jesuit who raped me as a teen,
the altar boy when I was six, the grief

of a child chucked from Eden, left for dead
by Peter’s Church and all the choirs above.
In a thick Polish accent choked with love,
Te Dominus amat was all you said.

NOTES: Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, and that night he visited me in a dream. This dream recurred three times. The last time was April 15, 2007—the night Pope Benedict XVI accosted American bishops over the matter of clerical sexual abuse—when this poem came to me in its entirety. I rose and immediately typed it. In every instance the dream was identical, and John Paul’s words were the same. Te Dominus amat is Latin for “God loves you.”— TM

Source: Poetry (June 2009)